BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – A horse with blinders, a live streaming service that offers a grand total of one channel, and a social media platform that only displays comments from users whose opinions mirror the account holder’s.
In all three of the above scenarios, perspective is limited.
Such a limited perspective is all too easy to take on in a community with a large financial gap between the wealthy and the poor.
This gap, often referred to as economic inequality, is common in many areas of the U.S., a country with a poverty rate of 14.4 percent.
Experts say the chasm has become increasingly visible since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Battling COVID while wealthy vs battling COVID while low-income
In an NBC article that addressed the pandemic’s impact on economic inequality, Greg Leiserson, director of tax policy and chief economist at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, is quoted as saying, “The amount of wealth you hold serves as an insurance.”
While a strong immune system can help to ward off the virus, a strong bank account gives a patient the financial means to pay for doctor’s visits, medication, and daily living costs should they need to take time away from work and recover from COVID.
On the other hand, when an individual from among the millions of people in the U.S. who live on less than $36 a day is diagnosed with COVID, even if they’ve been vaccinated, they may not be able to afford the costs of doctor’s visits, medications, and daily living costs should they need to take time away from work to recover from the virus.
But living in a community where the chasm between wealth and poverty is so gaping that it serves as a blinder can mean that one side doesn’t see the struggles of the other.
For some, a COVID diagnosis may be a slight hurdle to overcome; it’s a matter of taking a week off to self-quarantine and then bouncing back. So, upon noticing that some individuals from the other side of the economic gap are unable to “bounce back,” the immediate response may be a lack of understanding.
A healthcare professional who sees both sides of the economic chasm
A recent NBC article interviewed a healthcare worker who interacts with people from both sides of the economic gap.
Pete Nagel, a pharmacist in Midway, Georgia, explained that his pharmacy had a vast supply of COVID antiviral pills, which are an effective method of treating the virus.
He also explained that the medication is not easy for low-income or uninsured individuals to obtain.
Nagel told NBC, “I got 500 bottles of molnupiravir just sitting there in my pharmacy. I’ve got the ability to help people, and I can’t give it to them. I’ve had four or five different patients die from Covid when I’ve had the pills to help them and couldn’t give it to them.”
The struggle to survive while battling COVID amid poverty
Though the federal government has taken steps to widen accessibility to certain medications, there are still millions who lack even the financial means to cover the cost of a doctor’s visit, which is often necessary for the authorization of a prescription.
In cases like this, efforts to maintain one’s health and wellness can feel like repeated head-on encounters with a brick wall.
Not only is one physically ill, but their dignity may suffer a severe blow. If nearly every attempt to secure life-saving medical care is denied, it can make a person wonder why their life doesn’t seem as valuable as the average person’s.
Problems may then creep into their ability to make a living as they find that their employer, who is likely from the other side of the economic gap, fails to offer assistance in terms of extending periods of time off or arranging for a period of remote work until their situation has stabilized.
When facing challenges like this, it may be helpful to look into various programs provided by the federal government.
Some of these are listed on childrensdefense.org, and include:
- Unemployment Insurance: Find out if you’re eligible to receive unemployment benefits. Here’s how to get started in applying for unemployment benefits in your state
- Unemployment Insurance, Paid Sick Leave, Paid Family Leave: If the pandemic has affected your ability to work, find out what national and state benefits you may be entitled to.
- Mortgage Assistance: Check out Federal Housing Finance Agency’s information on mortgage assistance for homeowners. If your ability to pay your mortgage is impacted, and your loan is owned by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, you may be eligible to delay monthly mortgage payments for a temporary period.
- Access to SNAP: To see if you might be eligible for SNAP benefits, visit SNAP’s eligibility and application process page
- Free School Meals: Check out this list from the Food Research and Action Council to find out which school districts and community organizations in your state are offering meals while schools are closed
Bridging the gap with understanding
A number of individuals who’ve never personally experienced extreme poverty, but who are willing to peer past the ever-widening gap between rich and poor may share the sentiments of a recent article in Time magazine, which focused on the importance of treating low-income individuals with dignity.
The conclusion of the article stated, “The goal of social policy, in these times of change and anxiety, is to help people absorb the shocks that affect them without allowing those shocks to affect their sense of themselves… we clearly don’t have all the solutions, and suspect nobody else does either. But as long as we understand what the goal is, we can win.”
Essentially, while the solution to stamping out poverty may not be readily available, it’s always possible to treat people of little financial means with understanding, respect and to actively support their endeavors to improve their economic situations.